‘Photo above: Members of the Hawaii-based 209th Aviation Support Battalion “Lobos” enjoy grilled burgers and “J-Money Casadillas.”‘

A new dining facility built and used by Hawaii-based soldiers is gaining attention for its food and roadhouse-style atmosphere, and is quickly becoming a favorite spot at Camp Speicher, Iraq.

“It’s been getting around the base,” said Pvt. William Miles. “The other night, we had the whole fire department come. A lot of people who normally use the regular DFAC (dining facilities) are starting to come here.”

“Normally, we were feeding between 80 and 100 (per night),” said Sgt. Sean Wroten. “Two nights ago we fed 260 people. It was a constant flow all the way through.”

Lobo’s Roadhouse, named after the mascot of the 209th Aviation Support Battalion whose soldiers work nearby, quickly got the attention of the commanding officer of U.S. forces in the northern part of Iraq. Gen. Tony Cucolo stopped by just a few days after the opening, and was so impressed with the food, he gave each cook a command coin.

The restaurant was build after members of the 209th, part of the Hawaii-based 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, took the initiative to turn a standard Army containerized kitchen (CK) into a place where soldiers could have a relaxed experience.

“It’s not like a normal CK,” said Wroten. “We used to get a lot of sand coming through, and I made some comments that we could enclose it, and make it more weather friendly. And they just started doing more, and more.”

The construction effort was led by Pfc. Dustin Sheldon, who is a radio repairman, but learned framing skills while growing up in Michigan. During the month it took to complete the restaurant, Sheldon was the one giving orders to his senior non-commissioned officers.

“He had a majority of the brainstorming,” said Wroten. “He did a lot of work out here. He was out here every day, cutting, and putting everything up. Dealing with all of the first sergeants and sergeant majors, they collaborated and this is what they came up with.”

“James Johnson Restaurant review 2 centered”

The most popular dishes are creations by Spc. Ester Johnson, called “J-Money Casadillas.” Patrons can order the “Everything” with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, bacon bits, bacon strips, cheese, and a special seasoning. The “Heartburn” is similar, but is grilled with thick chili inside. Others can be custom made.

“We like to triple up on the pork products,” said Johnson, who would not reveal the ingredients in the special seasoning.

Other menu items include several types of grilled burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries and onion rings.

Lobo’s Roadhouse has the feel of a country bar & grill, and is a popular spot for soldiers to watch the NFL playoffs and other sporting events. They look forward to an early morning broadcast of the Super Bowl. Another incentive to come watch the big game? The chance that beer, which is normally prohibited for soldiers in theater, will be available during the broadcast.

As four soldiers at a table in the center of the restaurant discuss what is the best thing on the menu, one thing is clear.

“I don’t really go to the DFAC anymore.” said Lt. Tanya Nadudeari, with her comrades all nodding in agreement.

‘Photos and report by James Johnson, a Hawaii Reporter journalist embedded in Iraq. Reach him at mailto:jkenii@hotmail.com/’

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